If you are a beginner quilter wanting to make your own quilts, the first step is to study how to properly use a quilting presser foot. It's easiest to learn how to quilt with a walking foot, and the easiest method for using a walking foot is stitch-in-the-ditch quilting. Stitch-in-the-ditch is exactly what it sounds like — stitches in the "ditch," created by your seam allowances when quilting.
Follow along to learn how to use a presser foot for stitch-in-the-ditch quilting.
STEP 1: BEGIN BY MAKING YOUR "QUILT SANDWICH"
The quilt sandwich is the quilt top, basted onto the quilt batting and quilt backing. To make your quilt sandwich, you'll need your pieced quilt top, batting and backing fabric. Your batting should be at least 2" larger than your quilt top on all sides. Your backing should be at least 1" larger than your quilt top on all sides.
1. Lay your quilt backing down, right side down.
2. Lay your batting down on top of the backing, being careful to smooth out all the wrinkles. Try to center the batting on the backing.
3. Lay the quilt top on top of the batting, smoothing out all the wrinkles. Try to center the top on the batting.
4. Baste your layers together using your preferred basting method — pinning, fusing, spraying or hand-basting. To learn more about basting, check out our article on quilt basting techniques.
STEP 2: INSTALL THE WALKING FOOT
To install the walking foot, remove the foot already on the machine. Replace it with the walking foot, making sure the walking arm is positioned on the screw holding the needle in place — this is what makes the walking foot work.
STEP 3: CHECK YOUR MACHINE'S SETTINGS
Make sure your stitch is set to a straight stitch. You can use the same stitch length as when piecing, or a slightly longer stitch length. Once you've adjusted your stitches, make sure that your tension is properly adjusted.
STEP 4: BEGIN STITCHING
Select the seam on your quilt top you want to begin your stitch-in-the-ditch quilting on. Place your quilt sandwich under the presser foot, then lower the foot.
Feel with your fingers to determine which side of the seam the seam allowance has been pressed to. This side will be raised. Directly on the other side of the seam allowance, the piece will be lower, creating a ditch. This is where you want your stitches to fall. Adjust your quilt sandwich so that your needle is directly above this line. Make sure your presser foot is lowered and begin stitching, slowly at first.
STEP 5: COMPLETE THE ROW OF STITCHING
Stitch all the way to the end of the seam. As you do, watch the position of your needle to keep it just to the side of the seam. When you reach the edge of the quilt, lift your presser foot, cut your threads and begin again on another row.
STEP 6: ADD ADDITIONAL STITCHING IF NEEDED
Once you have quilted along each seam line, your quilt top should be fully quilted. To make sure your quilted top will hold up to wear, check the bag your batting came in for the recommended distance between quilting lines. If the distance between quilting lines is too far because your quilt is made of large pieces, consider adding another line of stitching partway between each seam to strengthen the quilt top.
This technique is perfect for beginner quilters and is also a great way to quilt a piece that is very busy, has intricate piecing, or large bold prints. Instead of competing with the design, stitch-in-the-ditch quilting fades into the quilt top, while still securing the quilt layers together.